Published Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Prep Baseball: Northgate finding identity with 5-game win streak

By CHRIS GOLTERMANN

cgoltermann@newnan.com

High school baseball teams often spend the first month of the season searching for an identity.

Northgate seems to have found its own sooner than later.

For the third consecutive game Monday, the Vikings received a top-notch pitching performance and put together timely hitting in a 5-1 victory over Whitewater at home, upping their win streak to five games heading into today’s Region 4-AAAAA home game against Ola.

Matt Farmakis pitched a complete-game victory and Armond Upshaw and Tyler Dahlberg each blasted two-run homers two innings apart to overcome an early 1-0 deficit against Whitewater. The Wildcats managed only an unearned run against the Northgate right-hander, who followed up senior teammate Robert Massenburg’s seven-inning victory over Starr’s Mill on Friday while pushing the Vikings to 2-0 in 4-AAAAA play.

“Farmakis pitched well considering we made three errors early,” said Northgate head coach Greg Hamilton. “We were able to overcome out mistakes, me included, and get another win out of it. Tyler Dahlberg’s really come on strong and Armond was able to overcome an error in the outfield that pretty much gave them their only run. That’s big for him to come back and answer that.”

Since an 0-2 start, a Northgate program that lost at least eight seniors to graduation has hit its stride while outscoring opponents 32-12 over a two-week span heading into a tough matchup against Ola (5-1, 1-1), which lost to Whitewater 3-2 on Friday before crushing Creekside 13-1 on Monday.

The Vikings, as a staff, lowered its team ERA to an impressive 1.17 over the first 48 innings of the season to go with 44 strikeouts.

Farmakis continued to keep Viking arms well rested for today’s game. Following a shutout win from junior Blake Whitney on Thursday and a 12-strikeout performance by Massenburg to beat Starr’s Mill 3-2 in Friday’s region opener, Farmakis continued a trend of strong efforts by striking out seven without allowing a walk while allowing four hits.

Over its last three victories, Northgate has used just four pitchers with each starter going at least six innings.

Both Farmakis and Northgate’s defense settled down after giving up a run off three hits and three errors through the first two-and-a-half innings of play. The senior struck out at least one batter over the last four while also getting help from Dahlberg’s over the head catch in short right-field for a double play that snuffed out Whitewater’s final chance in the seventh.

Upshaw and Dahlberg each made up for early miscues with towering homers that put Northgate ahead for good. After mishandling a fly to right two batters after teammate Jordan Schmits nearly came up with a leaping grab in left that fell in for a double, Upshaw made true with his next at bat.

With one out in the third and sophomore Blake Helton on second after Whitewater’s third error of the game, Upshaw lifted a two-run homer over the left-field fence for a 2-1 lead following his second hit of the game.

The Vikings No. 2 hitter was plunked on his next trip with one out in the fifth by Wildcat reliever Nick Fuerstenau. Dahlberg followed by unloading on a 1-0 pitch to right-center for another two-run blast that put Northgate further ahead 4-1 on the senior’s second homer of the season.

Dahlberg now leads Northgate with a .500 batting average with two homers and eight RBIs having been dropped from leadoff to the third spot in the order.

Upshaw, Dahlberg and Massenburg all had a pair of hits in the victory while Chase Allen and Schmits connected on back-to-back doubles in between a third and final pitching change by the Wildcats to make it 5-1 Vikings.

Six of Northgate’s eight hits were for extra bases.

“We’re hitting the ball hard almost every time up,” said Hamilton, whose team struck out just three times on Monday with a lineup that included just three senior starters. “We’re still a very young team. We had four sophomores out there [Monday]. It’s good to get those first two [region] wins. Hopefully we can keep this thing going.”

© 2011 The Newnan Times-Herald Inc., Newnan, Georgia. Any unauthorized use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.